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Try bamboo and forget about pests, poor rains

By George Mbakaya | Published Sat, June 30th 2018 at 00:00, Updated June 29th 2018 at 21:48 GMT +3

You do not require fertilisers or pesticides because it has no real threat from diseases or pests. A fast-growing, woody grass, bamboo is one of the highly versatile giant grass that can grow in nearly any kind of climate and thrive in the poorest of soils.

Utilisation

Bamboo is used to make a number of high-value products.

Commercially, it is used for furniture and a variety of building and roofing materials, from fencing poles to veneer, floor tiles, panels for walls and ceilings, scaffolding material, door and window frames and window blinders.

On protecting the environment, the bamboo plant is “magic” in mitigating effects of climate change through rapid reforestation, slowing soil erosion and repairing damaged ecosystems.

Bamboo also serves as an excellent large-scale carbon sink, each plant taking in almost double the carbon dioxide of a tree. Commercial bamboo farmers may also benefit from acquiring carbon credits.

A bamboo plant matures in four to eight years, depending on species; however, it can be harvested as a perennial crop, without deforestation, three to five years after initial planting. It can be sustainably harvested for well over 40 years.

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Once it starts growing, bamboo remains rooted in the soil, producing new shoots each year. This helps secure the soil and maintain slope stability. Unlike forests, where everyone says, ‘Don’t cut that tree,’ bamboo grows back fast when you cut it. The more you cut, the more it grows.

The fast growing giant bamboo seedlings can be planted at a spacing of 5 by 5 metres. This will give a plant population of 160 seedlings per acre of land.

The fast growing giant bamboo grows to 2-3 metres in height within three years. A single bush will produce about 100 stems per year, valued at Sh200 each, which can raise Sh20, 000.

With two harvests per year, a farmer can make Sh2 million from 50 bushes. The plant has no adverse natural pests and diseases as it produces pest resistant chemicals.

Initial investment

To establish bamboo plantation on one acre, it will cost you Sh150,000 approximately (160 bamboo seedlings x Sh200 = Sh32,000) land preparation will cost about Sh40,000, transportation and harvesting costs estimated at Sh60,000 and miscellaneous expenses Sh30,000.

Sweet returns

Each bamboo plantlet produces numerous shoots during its lifetime. The young plant produces three shoots in two months.

The following season, the three shoots plus the mother plant produce three shoots each. In four years, the single plant you planted will have produced 100 canes stretching up to 30 feet in height.

Now let us say you sell each pole at a price of Sh200, how much will you get from a single plant (which you bought for Sh200? 100×200=Sh20, 000.

Now, Multiply Sh20, 000 by the number of shoots in your farm, your return over Sh3, 000,000.

The fast growing giant bamboo can go a long way to alleviate environmental degradation and climate change.

It can also be used as a renewable energy source especially in making charcoal briquettes preventing deforestation and providing fuel for home use and for sale.

It’s important to note that, growing bamboo is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You certainly won’t make millions overnight. But with some smart choices and hard work, you really can make a nice income.

As with any business, it’s recommended you start small. Don’t try to grow too many varieties of bamboo at first, and let your business grow naturally.


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